New Planet Discovered By U Of A Astronomers

December 06, 2013

A team of astronomers, led by a graduate student from the University of Arizona, has discovered the first planet outside our solar system to be discovered at the U of A. 

The planet, designated HD 106906 b, is the most distantly orbiting planet found so far around a single, sun-like star. 

It weighs in at 11 times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.  And it’s orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance.

That makes it unlike anything in our solar system and throws a wrench into current theories about how planets are formed. 

But Vanessa Bailey of the U of A Department of Astronomy says future observations of the planet’s orbital motion and the star’s debris could help astronomers unravel the issue of planet formation.

The planet, which is considered young at 13 million years old, is still glowing from the heat of its formation. Earth, which formed 4.5 billion years ago, is about 350 times older than the new planet.

The international team that discovered HD 106906 b used adaptive optics and thermal infrared camera technologies developed at the U of A to take the discovery image in the Atacama Desert in Chile.